Farmer cheese is a fresh, unaged white type of cheese with a crumbly texture, used in different varieties worldwide and well known for its versatility both in sweet and savory recipes.
There are several kinds of cheese that can work as a farmer’s cheese substitute, and there are a lot of similar variations of this style of cheese that can work really well. It all depends on what kind of dish you’re making and your personal preferences.
What are the best farmer’s cheese substitutes?
Farmer cheese is an unripened white cheese with a crumbly texture, used in a variety of different ways and different recipes all around the world. Depending on the origin, farmer cheese is made using cow, sheep, or goat milk. Every variety differs in texture and taste.
Farmer cheese is made by coagulating the milk and cutting the curds, letting the whey drain off. The drained curds that result from this process are called cottage cheese.
There’s a variation of farmer cheese, made by pressing out the moisture even more and rolling the result in a mixture of herbs and different flavorings. The result is solid, dry and crumbly, and goes by the name of pressed cheese.
Farmer cheese is very versatile, and can be eaten on its own (with bread or on top of salads), mixed with other cheeses in different recipes, combined with yogurt, or used to make dips. It’s a fresh cheese with a mild taste, so you can add more flavor by adding sweet (like fresh fruit, for example) or savory (different herbs) add-ins.
1. Ricotta cheese
Ricotta is a very popular Italian cheese, made with a variety of different kinds of milk (sheep, cow, goat, or water buffalo’s milk) after they’re already been used to make other cheeses. Ricotta has a creamy white color and a slightly sweet taste.
Ricotta is usually eaten fresh, in its softest form, but aging ricotta can be eaten too: it simply becomes less soft with time, and can be preserved longer.
Its light and delicate taste make it a perfect addition to both savory and sweet recipes.
2. Paneer cheese
Paneer is a fresh cheese very popular in South Asian cuisine, made by curdling cow’s milk or buffalo’s milk with an acidic ingredient like lemon juice, yogurt, or vinegar. It can be eaten fresh, on its own, or cooked in a variety of different ways. Paneer is particularly appreciated when used in dishes like curry or pan-fried.
Paneer is a rich source of milk protein, it has a moist and soft texture and a mild taste that makes it a good farmer cheese substitute. It’s unsalted, while farmer cheese is often salted, but other than that, you can definitely substitute paneer in almost any recipe that calls for farmer cheese.
3. Havarti cheese
Havarti is a cheese native to Denmark, made from pasteurized cow’s milk, that has become really popular and that it’s often used in dishes or eaten on its own. Havarti has a semi-hard consistency, a pale-yellow color, and a springy texture.
Both the texture and the color aren’t really similar to farmer cheese, but Havarti is well balanced, tastes almost sweet, and is mild enough to work as a good substitute for farmer’s cheese.
Havarti works best in sandwiches, as it melts well, but it can also be a nice substitute in salads.
4. Goat cheese
Goat cheese is a very versatile food and comes in many different tastes and textures. The main common characteristic of all the different varieties is the fact that it’s made of goat’s milk: goat cheese comes from capris acid, and it has a low lactose content.
Goat cheese varieties depend mainly on the aging: when eaten fresh, after not more than a few days from production, the taste is milder. When aged, the texture turns firmer, without hardening, and the taste becomes more creamy and intense.
Both the crumbly texture and the mild taste make it a nice substitute for farmer’s cheese, but keep in mind that the taste can be a little bit sharper than farmer cheese.
5. Queso Blanco
Queso Blanco is a Mexican cheese made from skimmed cow’s milk: it’s white, soft, mild, and creamy. Sometimes the taste has a hint of lemon because the acidic ingredient is used to coagulate the milk and the whey.
Because of this process, Queso Blanco is a little bit more acidic than farmer cheese, but the similarities in texture and taste make it a good farmer’s cheese alternative.
Queso Blanco is often used ad a grilling or frying cheese, because it becomes softer when heated but doesn’t melt, as a topping for salads or eaten on its own with fresh fruits.
6. Neufchâtel cheese
Neufchâtel is a soft cheese, native to the Normandy region of France (specifically to the Neufchâtel-en-Bray area, where the cheese’s name comes from). It’s one of the oldest kinds of cheese produced in France, dating back to the 6th century.
Neufchâtel has a grainy texture, soft and a little crumbly, and a white edible rind. The taste is saltier and sharper than other cheese, and it has a relatively low-fat content. If you’re looking for a substitute to farmer’s cheese, but you want something with a tangier taste, Neufchâtel is your best choice.
7. Quark cheese
Quark is another type of fresh dairy product similar to paneer and Queso Blanco, made by heating soured milk until the right amount of curds forms, and then straining the liquid. It’s traditionally made without rennet, but small quantities of it are nowadays added.
Quark is very popular in different European countries and cuisines (especially in Germany, Switzerland, and Scandinavian countries), and it’s used for appetizers, salads, main dishes, and even desserts.
It has a white color and a soft texture and can be a good farmer’s cheese substitute in many different recipes, according to your own taste.
8. Feta cheese
Feta is a brined curd cheese traditionally made from sheep’s milk (or a mixture of sheep’s milk and goat’s milk), with a crumbly texture and a white color. Feta is usually aged for four to six weeks and can last several months if preserved in the right conditions.
Feta tastes sharp and salty, and it’s used in salads, pastries, sandwiches, or even as a garnish on meat or other vegetable dishes. Both for its taste and texture, feta can work perfectly well as a farmer’s cheese replacement.
9. Faisselle cheese
Faisselle is a very fresh, unsalted, and white cheese produced all over France, but native to the central part of the country. The name comes from the plastic mold in which the curds are drained, called a faisselle.
This kind of cheese can be made of cow’s milk or goat’s milk, it has a bright white color, no rind, and a very soft texture: all of these characteristics make it a good substitute for farmer’s cheese.
It can be used in both sweet (served with honey and dried fruit) or savory (served with salt and pepper and eaten on its own) recipes.
10. Creamed cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is a fresh dairy product, rindless and usually eaten fresh. It’s made by adding an acid ingredient (like vinegar) to pasteurized milk to cause the separation of the milk from the whey. When the curds are formed, they’re cut into pieces, further cooked, rinsed, and salted.
Creamed cottage cheese has a mild, vaguely acidic flavor, with an addition of a light cream dressing to make it even creamier. It can work as a nice farmer’s cheese substitute, especially in desserts and fresh preparations.
11. Dry cottage cheese
Dry cottage cheese is another form of cottage cheese, basically made in the same way as cottage cheese but without the addition of cream to make it softer.
It has the same benefits as creamed cottage cheese, but it probably works better as a dry farmer’s cheese substitute. The taste is similarly mild, and the only difference is in texture.
12. Manouri cheese
Manouri is a semi-soft fresh cheese, with a bright white color, made from sheep’s or goat’s milk drained from the production of feta. This makes it somehow similar to feta, but creamier in texture and less salty in taste.
Manouri works great with recipes that call for a sweet, rich ingredient. It’s amazing in desserts or eaten on its own, with honey and dried fruits. It’s also a great ingredient to use as a salad topping, to be eaten as a snack, or as an appetizer.
13. DIY farmer’s cheese
The last option, if you’re looking for the closest match to farmer’s cheese, is to make your own homemade farmer’s cheese.
It’s a long process, but it’s mostly up to nature to do the heavy work, so if you have a bit of time you can find the process on the internet and try to make your own farmer’s cheese. There are a lot of different recipes, but the basics are: heat the milk, add a few drops of rennet, stir, and let sit for hours. Stir the curds, heat it again, strain the excess liquid, add cream, and what you’re left with is cottage cheese.
Keep in mind that, since there are so few ingredients in the recipes, it’s always better to use the highest quality dairy you can get.
How to choose a farmer’s cheese substitute
Choosing the right farmer’s cheese substitute depends mostly on the recipe you’re following and your own personal taste. If you don’t have the time to make your own farmer’s cheese, the substitutes can be divided between drier and creamier options.
If you’re looking for a dry cheese option, you should choose something like Havarti, feta, paneer, or dried cottage cheese. They all have a similar soft texture, but they somehow lack the creaminess of the second group of substitutes.
If you’re looking for something really creamy, you can opt for ricotta, Neufchâtel, Queso Blanco, quark, creamed cottage cheese, faisselle, or manouri.